Gambier gets first fire truck


Gambier Island is getting its first-ever functioning fire truck – and it was built from scratch by resident Doug Buckle.

Buckle was an emergency vehicle technician for the West Vancouver Fire Department for 19 years, and previously built fire trucks for Lions Bay and Pemberton.

“So I figured if anybody could build one for Gambier, it would be me. And they were in high need of something,” Buckle told Coast Reporter.

He began about a year and a half ago, after he found a used cab chassis with low kilometres on it. He cleaned it and a friend painted it.

Next he found a fire engine’s compressed air foam unit that had never been used. He outfitted the truck with a siren, light bar and added room for a stretcher by taking out the rear seat.

Inside, the firefighting gear includes spill equipment, an AED, first aid equipment, a generator and spotlight for nighttime emergencies. Not only will there be water from high pressure hoses, but the compressed air foam system reduces the amount of water needed to put out fires.

“It’s got all the nozzles and fittings and everything that a regular fire truck would have, I put into it,” Buckle said. “It’s good to go right now, it’s a usable piece of equipment.”

With more homes being built on Gambier Island and wildfires on Indian Arm and Horseshoe Bay highlighting dry summer seasons in recent years, Buckle said he saw the potential for a fire on the island. He hopes this fire truck will give residents a “sense of security.”

Buckle said he’d like to build a second fire truck, so one could be stationed at either end of the island. A second fire truck or apparatus would also be one of the requirements to form an official volunteer fire department, he added.

Bob Ostiguy, the Gambier Fire Equipment Group (GFEG) coordinator, said there was once an old fire truck in West Bay Landing, but as far as he knows it did not work and was never used.

GFEG has been operating since the 1980s in an effort to raise funds and secure grants for fire protection equipment.

“The fire truck brings a little pizzazz to the concept of firefighting,” Ostiguy said. He hopes that it will appeal to young islanders and inspire them to volunteer or pursue a career in firefighting. Most of the GFEG volunteers, Ostiguy said, are over 65 years old and the group could use “young blood.” The long-term idea is to train volunteer firefighters in order to create an official department and become eligible for government grants and funding.

Currently, Gambier Island is equipped with around three trailers holding a fire hose, first aid equipment, an oxygen tank and other tools. The trailers remain unlocked so that anyone who needs them has access to the gear.

When Ostiguy first heard of Buckle’s plans to build a fire truck for the island, he said he “wasn’t sure whether or not it was a pipe dream” but was pleased to see it come together.

“He’s an asset to the island, he’s an asset to the GFEG group,” Ostiguy said of Buckle. “He’s gung ho and I love to see that kind of energy and that kind of commitment we need, so I’m now very much impressed.”

The fire truck will be available primarily to people who have been trained to use it or to professional firefighters, Buckle said. For now – until there is a fire hall to house it in – the truck will be kept dry and maintained at Buckle’s residence.

On Saturday, June 26, Buckle will give a demonstration of the fire truck at the community centre. Residents are welcome to attend to learn about how the equipment works and about training opportunities.

GFEG will host demonstrations for other fire protection equipment throughout the summer.

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